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Fine of Globovision suspended by court but equipment confiscated by media regulator not to be returned

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 7 March 2007, the Politico-Administrative bench of the Supreme Court of Justice (Sala Político Administrativa del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia) temporarily suspended a fine against television station "Globovisión" that had been imposed by the National Commission for Telecommunications (CONATEL) on 3 October 2003. It rejected, however, the restitution of seven of its microwave systems that had been confiscated by CONATEL.

The court ordered Globovisión to post a bond with the Supreme Court's Politico-Administrative bench in spite of the suspension of the fine.

Globovisión's General Manager, Alberto Federico Ravell, informed IPYS that the station has paid the bond of 15 million bolivares (approx. US$6,900), which will serve as collateral in case the station loses the case. Ravell informed IPYS that the proceedings before the court will continue.

In October 2003, CONATEL fined Globovisión 30,000 "tributary units" (approx. US$360,000 at that time) and confiscated seven of its microwave systems for the alleged violation of article 166 of the Telecommunications Law, which penalises companies that use radio-electric frequencies without administrative authorization or without having been granted a concession.

Globovisión stated that the right to due process had not been respected and that no concession was required in order to operate portable microwave broadcasting equipment. The confiscation of the equipment has impaired the work of the television station.

IPYS issued eight alerts involving "Globovisión" during 2006 (see IFEX alerts of 18 December, 27, 22, 17, 10 and 6 November, 6 and 5 October 2006, and others). Those involved in the harassment include military personnel, judges and the Public Prosecutor's Office. This points to the existence of a policy of harassment of this opposition media outlet, which is condemned by IPYS as it restricts press freedom.

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